If you have not seen the film Chocolat, stop now and go rent / buy / download it so you know what I am talking about. If you have seen it, you know the expressions of ecstasy on the faces of the townspeople as they are transformed by Vianne’s exotic chocolate creations.
In the film – which is perfect for Easter Week – Vianne livens up the inhibited French town with ancient Maya secrets of chocolate preparation from Central America.
In Costa Rica, cacao beans were used as currency by the indigenous tribes for thousands of years up until near modern times of the 1930s. You can learn about cacao’s long history in Costa Rica and its importance in the Bribri indigenous culture on the Bribri Chocolate Tour near Puerto Viejo, on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean Coast. The tour, easily booked through Le Caméléon Hotel, takes you to the fascinating Bribri Indigenous Reserve in the foothills of the Talamanca Mountains.
The Bribri are one of Costa Rica’s few remaining indigenous tribes that are alive and thriving. For generations, the Bribri have cultivated cacao trees and their precious fruit, using cacao seeds and chocolate for rituals, food and also medicinal remedies. The Bribri consider the cacao bean sacred, and on the tour you will hear many stories about the tribe’s relationship with cacao.
Cacao originated in the Americas; growing and harvesting cacao was a major industry in Costa Rica before the introduction of coffee in the late 1700s. Unfortunately, fungus blight swept through Costa Rica’s cacao plantations in 1979, killing production by 95%. Cacao and organic chocolate production are now making a big comeback in the country.
On the Puerto Viejo Chocolate Tour, you will visit “the Chocolate House”, where the Bribri women will teach you about how they produce their organic chocolate using the tribe’s ancient methods. You’ll get to try things like fresh dried cacao beans and homemade chocolate. Then, browse their selection of chocolate for sale – infused with nutmeg, cinnamon, spicy chili pepper, black pepper, mint, coffee, vanilla and more – to savor and remember your visit.
The place to stay when visiting Puerto Viejo, on the southern Caribbean Coast, is Hotel Le Caméléon. The vibrant Costa Rica boutique hotel fronts the dazzling, turquoise Caribbean Sea and golden sand of Playa Cocles – one of the area’s most beautiful beaches. Hip, modern and upscale, Le Caméléon features ultra-chic rooms, beautiful tropical architecture, and lush jungle gardens that create an ambience of intimate privacy. The elegant Le Numu Restaurant & Bar is one of the area’s top restaurants, and the newly remodeled La Sula Sea Lounge beach club is the place to hang out by the shore, meet friends for a cool drink or a light meal.
Article by Shannon Farley